Moving Day

This has been a particularly emotional week. We said goodbye to our home for the last twelve years. The first home my husband and I bought together, the home we brought our three babies home to, where we got our first dog, and made more memories than I can begin to count.

We are all excited for our new adventure in a new state and are looking forward to more family time, but the goodbye was hard. We are sad to say goodbye to great neighbors, wonderful friends and the community we have built around this brick, mortar and wood building.

Moving day came after Christmas, packing the 3000 plus square foot home, New Year’s and too many goodbyes to count. The kids have been stoic but slightly edgy and so have the parents. Many tears have been shed and even more pushed back.

I am grateful for all the hugs and the friends who won’t be forgotten. Michigan isn’t so far away and we will visit MD and the MidAtlantic again. DC is the birthplace of our children and America’s hometown. It truly is ours, but for now we are headed back to our Midwestern roots.

Today started out rocky when the moving truck didn’t quite clear a wire to our house. Luckily PEPCO quickly determined that it wasn’t electric or live but probably an abandoned (pre-FIOS) telephone wire. After problems with the heat this week at both our MD home and MI rental, this could have been the final straw, but we pushed on. The kids saw their good friends one last time today while the movers worked. We were on our way after about 8 hours of hard physical and emotional work.

We are loaded down with belongings in two cars and the kids are complaining of overcrowding. The betta fish is sloshing in his bowl but we will push on tomorrow. Tonight we are barely 1 1/2 hours away in a hotel for the night, but we are on our way, together moving to his next step. Tomorrow we move forward. Thanks to all of you who have been with us so far and who will continue to be in our hearts and lives.

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Rest In Peace

My brother died last week after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer and we buried him yesterday. He lived for more than two years after his diagnosis. He survived surgery to remove he original mass, a complicated procedure that rerouted some of his inside parts. He also survived radiation and chemotherapy. Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence for almost all who are diagnosed. It is just a matter of time and the will to survive. Bob’s will was strong. He hoped for a miracle and it appeared that he did not believe he would die. Bob never seemed to outgrow that adolescent belief in immortality. He was also afraid to die up to the very end. Pain was what finally overrode both.

Bob had always been a survivor. In his early twenties he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I don’t think anyone really knows when Bob began hearing voices, but I think most who knew him would admit that his struggles started early in life. He did not have a lot of friends, school was difficult even though he was intelligent and he never really seemed to fit in. He was often told he was lazy. He slept a lot and enjoyed video games before they were really popular. I remember him playing pinball, PacMan and other old school video games. I believe these were probably escapism from his voices and his problems. Later in life, he would use drugs and alcohol to quiet the demons. He served in the Army and got out just when the schizophrenia was beginning to strongly manifest itself.

I remember a time when a Bob liked to read books, take walks through A neighboring cornfield to visit the grotto, go to the park or play in the creek. He liked to make plans for his future family and the farm he was going to have. He liked to go swimming and ride the bike he earned from his paper route. Bob’s future was very different from the one he planned. But, who believes that they are going to grow up and suffer from mental illness and die at the age of 48 in a nursing home?

There are some who saw his struggles and judged Bob’s life. He was a hermit for many years who did not like to be in public because of the voices. He took his medication sporadically or not at all. Family members stopped visiting because of his living conditions and inability to interact socially. He received few phone calls because he often said strange things and made little sense. He was alone even though he did not live alone and he had an extensive family. There are also some who judge the way Bob was treated by that family.

The truth is, we did the best that we knew how. None of us could fix his problems especially if he could not or would not take his medicine. He was technically an adult even if he was not in a position to support himself. In his final two years, he lived in a nursing home where he received his medication regularly. The medication helped but did not completely resolve his symptoms. Bob saw each of his 12 siblings at some point during his last two years. Due to proximity and circumstances he saw some more than others. There have been judgements about that as well. My sister told me years ago as our grandfather was dying that you can’t judge other peoples’ grieving processes. At the time I am not really sure I really understood even though I tried to take her advice. I do understand now. My adult relationship with Bob was tenuous and fragile, but we grew up together. Our paths took very different turns, we made different choices and were dealt different cards, but our early lives were similar.

I was close to Bob when we were very young but by early adolescence our lives were changing. I tried at times to write and call and visit, but we never regained that childhood bond. I could not put myself in his shoes and Bob could not put the needed work into any relationship. I saw my brother just three times in his last two years, but ten years ago, I thought I would never see him again. I am sorry for all the pain and suffering that Bob endured in his life. It seems unfair that one person has to go through so much, but I truly believe there is a reason for everything. Whether you believe in God, Karma or something else, there has to be a larger purpose for everything that happens. We may never fully understand the bigger picture, but we have free will to make choices along the way and we carve out the lives that are meant for us.

Bob’s dying just like his living was somewhat complicated and messy. I am grateful that his final illness brought him back to us even if those bonds were loose. I may not always see my family or speak to them often, but, I know they are there and will do whatever they can to help me. I only need to ask. We each showed our love and affection to Bob the best we could. In the end I think he knew peace and the love and forgiveness of his family. I know he is now free from pain and struggle and I take comfort in that.

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A New Year

Happy New Year!

The holidays have come and gone and as I suspected I was busy with Christmas shopping, entertaining, holiday programs, volunteering at school and all the usual year end activities. The last six weeks have passed in a flurry Christmas preparations followed by days off from school for vacation and winter weather.

I did continue to exercise in December and felt good about where I ended the year. I know that I have not blogged for several weeks about my road to fitness but I managed to walk, run or bike a few times every week. The holiday season is always a problem with unhealthy habits, but I didn’t stress about it too much which I believe made a big difference in the outcome.

I enjoyed my time with my family and the sights and sounds of the season. It is so easy to get caught up in the stresses, but my children really love Christmas and it is contagious. We love the songs, the decorations and the holiday baking. We all stayed up past midnight to ring in the New Year and talked about goals we want to accomplish in 2014.

It seems appropriate to take time today the twelfth day after Christmas to get back on track with my blog and begin to work toward some of my goals. I am settling back into my routines and also challenging myself to be a better version of myself this year and in the future.

Happy New Year to you all and thank you for taking the time to read my words.

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First Day of School

Aside

Today was the first day of school. It is a day that I have been anticipating and dreading in equal measure for the last three months. My youngest son started full time school today. He joins his brothers in a Spanish Immersion program that will continue through 5th grade. For the next two years, there will be one school drop off and pick up. This will greatly simplify our lives in many ways.

Family and friends have been asking half tongue in cheek half seriously what I am going to do with my time now that all my boys are in school. Since September 2003, I have been a full time stay at home mom except for the ten months that I finished graduate school and dipped my toe in the water as a working mother. That wasn’t ideal for our family so  I inevitably stayed home. Well actually we did anything but stay home.

There have been playgroups, preschool programs, travels, museum and zoo visits, park outings and many many errands with children in tow. In so many ways, that was a simpler time. The children were harder to care for because they needed help with so many things, but our days we our own. Five years ago, when the oldest started school those care-free days came to an end. We have to adhere to a school schedule and calendar now and it isn’t always convenient. There is no more traveling to NYC and further whenever we want. There are no more mid week trips to the zoo or Smithsonian museums with my boys. I can still do those things, but it won’t be the same. My free time is scheduled between 8:40 drop off and 3:05 pick up.

I plan to spend a lot of time in my boys’ classrooms. My middle son’s teacher already has a weekly job for me. I will do all of those errands without kids and hope to occasionally have lunch with my husband. I will do the school drop off and pick up most days since our elementary school is outside our neighborhood. I will take care of sick kids, do laundry and cook meals. Today I started a new fitness program which I will write more about later. Life is changing as it does, and while I am sad that babyhood is over for us, I am looking forward to the next chapter. I also wish my children every happiness and success as they move forward  in their lives.

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Summer Fun

Summer time and the living is easy. That is the line in a song anyway. For us summer time has been a mix of easy living and a hectic pace, a sort of controlled chaos. When the boys were really young, the days seemed long and we filled them with park play-dates, visits to the local pick-your-own farms, museum trips, movies and afternoons by the pool. It was a fun simple time.
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These days, summer begins even before school ends. The boys have classes through the middle of June and swim team practices begin right after Memorial Day. It is a juggling act the fit in daily practice with homework, school, piano lessons, social activities and a reasonable bed time.

This year, there were end of the year projects, graduations, first communions, birthdays, piano recitals, sporting events, dinner groups, book clubs and swim meets twice a week. Then when school finished, there was a week of Cub Scout Day Camp. I had the privilege of chaperoning a group of 14 boys from our pack along with two other parents on two days and chauffeuring six boys on two other days. It was a fun filled, action packed week, but I definitely breathed a sigh of relief when it was over.
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Before camp, my dad visited for a week. The week at our house was sandwiched between a trip to my sister’s house in Oswego, NY and my brother’s house in Herndon, VA. From there he headed south to North Carolina to see his sister. I think he thought that during his visit we would get to spend some time together going out for meals and just visiting. Unfortunately, he arrived during that transitional time from school to summer and we spent a great deal of time running around hauling the kids from activity to activity.

Tomorrow is the last swim meet of the season. This will be the first meet that I will miss this year and it’s a big one. Nate is swimming three events, free style, breast stroke and butterfly. At 9, he has come a long way from the days when it took him more than a minute to swim a lap. Will at 7 will also swim. He will swim “up” with the 9/10 age group and he will also swim the breast stroke. This is the first time this season that the two boys will actually compete against one another.
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The reason I am missing this Divisional meet is because I am on a plane to Las Vegas, NV to meet up with my niece, Nicole, her boyfriend and several of my sisters and their husbands to celebrate Nicole’s 21st birthday. Nicole and her mom have been through a lot in the last five years, and I want to go an help them make some happy memories. I don’t anticipate this being a wild trip ala The Hangover, but I am looking forward to fun, relaxation and a bit of bonding with my family.

Next week we will have our fourth set of house guests since summer began and we are all looking forward to our friends from Michigan visiting. They also have three boys, so I expect it to be more controlled chaos. After their visit, our family will go on vacation with Matt’s parents and his brother’s family. After that trip, we will have about two weeks free left of summer to hang out by the pool and do various other stay-cation activities. I am sure the time will quickly be filled up.

We will try to squeeze every bit of fun we can into the summer while enjoying some quiet time at home as well. After all it is summer time, and the living is easy.IMG_2479

Responsible Parenting

According to the Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, you can become an expert after 10,000 hours of practice. Based on this, I should be an expert at parenting. I do not feel like an expert. Each week and often every day brings me a new situation that causes me to pause and wonder if I am doing the right thing and what the best choice is. Often the decision is easy and instinctive, but somethings require more thought than others.

My oldest son turns ten this year and during my pregnancy with him, I began reading books about parenting and all the things associated with parenting. I still read many books and articles about parenting because I want to be the best parent I can. Some of the latest articles I have read have to do with how today’s parents are ruining their children because they have taken “helicopter parent” to the extreme. They do everything for their children and don’t give them a chance to become independent.

Last night a friend told us a story about a friend of hers who was trying to hire a recent college graduate for a job. On the day of the job interview, the mother of the applicant called to say that her daughter was not feeling well and would not be able to attend the interview. Since her daughter couldn’t attend, the mother would be happy to go to the interview and tell all about her daughter and why she should be hired. This friend of my friend agreed to let the mother do the interview because she was curious about what would happen. The mother arrived for her daughter’s interview dressed in a business suit with her daughter’s resume and proceeded to tell why her responsible daughter should be hired. Needless to say the daughter was no offered a job, but the mother was because she seemed professional and responsible unlike her child. I thought this was ridiculous but it really was a true story. This is extreme but it illustrates just how much some people hover and fail to teach their children responsibility.

My main job as a parent apart from loving and caring for my children is to teach them to become independent productive members of society. This means I don’t do their homework or projects (shocking), I don’t explain to their teachers why they didn’t get their homework done unless it truly was my fault (rare) and I don’t tell their coaches why they can’t practice because they don’t feel like it.  Just yesterday two of my boys did not feel like practicing for swimming because they have been at Cub Scout camp all week and were tired. One of them didn’t practice because he truly has been working hard swimming at practice and his meet the night before while the other one did practice because he has been taking it easy due to an ear infection. They had to talk to the coach about this because they are the ones on the team.

My kids are spoiled and have many luxuries that I did not have as a child, but they also have chores around the house. They help with meals, cleaning, taking out trash, doing laundry and they take care of their pets. They have consequences for their actions. If they hit someone or say something mean or offensive they will apologize and have a consequence. They get grounded, lose privileges and have time outs even at the age of almost 10 and it started before they could walk. This growing up is a journey and they need to learn that they are not entitled to walk all over others along the way. The worst offenses in our family are lying or trying to get something from one parent when the other parent has already said no. My husband and I may not always agree, but we parent as a team and if he says no, the same goes for me. Children will always try to divide and conquer and that doesn’t work for us.

I see many children who get their way every time they throw a tantrum just because it is easier for the parents. If someone said something mean to them it might be ok to hit someone else. I think that is wrong. We all make mistakes along the way, but it is important to take responsibility. I see a culture of permissiveness and entitlement and I think it is going to end badly. What is going to happen when these children realize they really can’t have whatever they want?

Another thing that we try to instill in our children is personal responsibility. That includes being on time. As a child, we were always late for every family gathering and it became a joke that we were on “Forsythe time”. I probably overcompensate for that by being early and it really does stress me out to be late for something. If I am going to be late, I make a habit of calling to let the person know because I value their time as much as my own. People have better things to do than sit and twiddle their thumbs waiting for others. I realize that things happen and there are isolated incidents, but when it is a habit, it is rude and disrespectful. It seems to say that your time is more important than others.

Parenting and responsibility have been on my mind a great deal lately as I struggle with making decisions that I believe are in the best interest of my children and our family. My children are not always happy with my choices but they would also eat candy all day long if I let them.

Celebration of Mothers

To those of you who have been following my blog, I apologize for being MIA for a bit. Today seemed like a good day to go back online.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers and to those of you who have mothers. That pretty much covers it. Without a mother, none of us would be here. I know one day shouldn’t take the place of loving our mothers and being grateful for being a mother, but I do think it helps us to pause and reflect on the blessings we tend to take for granted on a daily basis. Mother’s Day isn’t about the gifts and the cards, but for those of us who sometimes feel taken for granted, those things help.

Nine years ago, I celebrated my first official Mother’s Day. My son was eight months old and my gift was a patio table and four chairs and a baby swing so that we could all spend more time in our backyard. The swing has been passed on and exchanged for a play set because the tree the swing hung from was a casualty of one of our summer storms. The patio table and chairs are still in use, in fact we had snacks out there this afternoon. I enjoyed relaxing and doing nothing while Matt and our first born played catch until the wind whipped up and the table umbrella almost became an airborne projectile. We managed to save the snacks and the wine glasses and took everything indoors.

Since that first Mother’s Day, I have celebrated with my three boys and each one is blessed. Often, I am served breakfast in bed and the boys work really hard to make me feel loved and the day special. It is usually more relaxing than even my birthday because too often our birthdays fall on a school/work day and We don’t get to spend the whole day with family, which is what today is really all about.

This year I got tea and toast in bed, with homemade cards and some special gifts from my cub scouts. On Friday, Henry treated me to a party at his school and a handmade plate, a pasta necklace and a paper flower both of which I wore to brunch this morning. After a lovely brunch, we picked up steaks and veggies that my husband was going to prepare for our dinner.

Matt and I spoke to both of our mothers and I also called my sister whose daughter is traveling in the UK so she won’t see her until next weekend. This is Mary’s first Mother’s Day as a widow and she seems to be feeling especially alone. I wished that I could send her a hug along the telephone line, but the boys and I tried to let her know we are thinking of her and send her our love so many miles away.

After dinner, Will and I took our nine year old lab mix on a short walk, we watched an episode of Duck Dynasty and that concluded my ninth Mother’s Day. It ended it for the children at least. Now I sit typing my blog and Matt is channel surfing to see what programs he may be missing after I downgraded our cable last week. It has been a lovely day and I do feel very blessed to be a mother, for my own mother, my mother in law and all those who have acted as a mother to me for all these years. Their numbers are many and I am ever grateful for all those women and men too who have helped to make me a better person and a better mother especially. Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

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